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Old 06-21-2011, 09:27 PM
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GoingNowhere GoingNowhere is offline
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Default Dominance in Domestic Dogs

Does anyone know of any reputable websites (.gov, .edu, etc), journal articles, or books discussing the dominance theory in domestic dogs (I'd prefer scientific studies or otherwise sources with a relatively 'neutral' stance).

It occurred to me today that I've pretty much been "spoon fed" my position on domestic dog pack behavior or lack-thereof. As I'm sure has happened with all of you at some point or another, conversations such as the following are not an uncommon occurrence.

Person: *insert comment on dog dominance*
Me: "I don't believe that most dog behavior originates from an attempt to be dominant."
Person: "Why do you say that?"
Me: "Well, it seems to me to be a lack of training. It's also been noted that domestic dogs don't actually form packs and pack hierarchies the way that wolves do..."
Person: "Says who?"
Me: "uh, well....." *goes on to mumble something about a dog forum on the internet.*

I am not the type of person to regurgitate information and it bothers me that I really haven't done my own research on a subject that is so meaningful to me.

I am not looking for your opinion. I am, however, looking for the primary sources from which you derived that opinion. Thank you in advance!

As a sidenote, how does one add a poll to a thread?

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Old 06-21-2011, 09:33 PM
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Oh good idea!

Im looking forward to this info as well

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Old 06-21-2011, 09:34 PM
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There are articles. Look up Coppinger, they studied pariah dogs. The American Veterinary Society of Animal Behaviour was so concerned with the rampant 'dominance' beliefs they put this statement out

Not that dogs are wolves, but people get wolves wrong too Wolf Status and Dominance in Packs -Alpha Status

If you want to read a big thing I did with links Why you should forget the idea of dominance/pack theory as relates to you and your dog. Also why punishing bad behaviour is often worse than doing nothing. (as promised) : dogs
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Old 06-21-2011, 09:39 PM
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I have these bookmarked:

ClickerSolutions Training Articles -- The History and Misconceptions of Dominance Theory
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Old 06-21-2011, 09:58 PM
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Not sure if this is too one-sided, but here's the APDT's article on dominance and domestic dogs.

Dominance and Dog Training

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Old 06-22-2011, 07:31 AM
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I was just thinking the exact same thing! I just hadn't gotten around to making a thread. Great minds thinks a like. I probably shouldn't be reading these when I have exams to study for but I might not be able to help myself....
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Old 06-22-2011, 09:21 AM
SaraB SaraB is offline
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Originally Posted by Dekka View Post
There are articles. Look up Coppinger, they studied pariah dogs. The American Veterinary Society of Animal Behaviour was so concerned with the rampant 'dominance' beliefs they put this statement out
^^ This... I was about to post it, but very glad it was posted already!

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Old 06-22-2011, 09:29 AM
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Can a mod sticky this? I think it would be great to have it somewhere we can easily reference it and then I don't have to dig through a ton of stuff to find links to send to people.

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Old 06-22-2011, 09:50 AM
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Awesome links on this thread, thank you to the contributors. I second a sticky please

Unfortunately even with all this logical, sound information, too many people refuse to give up the dominance paradigm when it comes to interacting with their dogs...
"We become better trainers by refusing to swallow uncritically what is tossed to us as truth,
by developing our powers of empathy and observation,
and by searching for better ways to teach and educate the dogs we love."
~Suzanne Clothier
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Old 06-22-2011, 12:09 PM
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Most of the sources I have are very one sided, and that does bother me a little, but I think that's because there's literally no supporting evidence of dominance theory (note how inconsistent the "theory" is from person to person, and even internally). Usually when the topic comes up, I make three points.

1) Dog are not wolves. Although they are genetically very similar, their behavior is very different. Domestication changes behavior, and even feral dog packs don't behave like wolf packs. Their social system is more fluid. Besides, not even wolves use dominance theory; they form family units. Although one point FOR dominance theory is that the original theory was formed by observing unrelated captive wolves, which does more closely mimic the typical multi-dog household.

2) I am not a wolf. If there is one thing my dog knows, it is that I am not a dog. Dogs can tell the difference between different prey species (note the dog that only goes after cats, or the rabbit hounds that know/can be taught to leave other species alone) and other dogs. Additionally, dog agression, prey drive, and human aggression are all different things. Take the Pit Bull, historically bred for extreme dog aggression but complete lack of human aggression. Dogs definitely know we are not dogs. There is no way I can move as quickly, decisively, and accurately as a dog can. Compared to a dog correcting another dog I am clumsy, dull, and dangerous to be around.

3)It's not useful. Most unwanted dog behaviors are totally natural dog behaviors (additionally many strains of dominance theory interpret submissive behaviors as dominant ones, ie jumping up). The reason we find them undesirable is because we are asking the dog to live in a HUMAN world. Dogs don't ask other dogs to fetch dumbbells and deliver them to hand, race through weave poles, or heel with eye contact.

If someone asks me about it, I tell them to stop worrying about it. You have the opposable thumbs, the great big primeape brain, and the wallet. You ARE the leader.

"Most dominance problems aren't solved by taking the dog down a peg, but by the humans acting like someone worth following."
-Suzanne Clothier
(or something like that, I think)

The Dominance Controversy | Philosophy | Dr. Sophia Yin, DVM, MS
Dr. Sophia Yin on Dominance

The Social Organizatin of the Domestic Dog
This is very long, very dense, and very VERY good. There are methodology problems (the author is observing her own dogs and I think that imparts a good deal of bias) but it covers very well how dominance theory makes no sense and the need for a new model.

Last edited by Raegan; 06-22-2011 at 12:21 PM.
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